Liveability under shrinkage: initiatives in the ‘capital of pessimism’ in Finland

Ria-Maria Adams, Alla Bolotova, Ville Alasalmi

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This article focuses on local initiatives and the agency of residents in the shrinking town of Puolanka in northern Finland. Structural opportunities and constraints shape individual and collective agency in the community, as they steer how people create and develop initiatives. We discuss how local initiatives impact the sense of place among those who would like to stay in their rural hometown. A group of local activists facetiously market Puolanka as the ‘most pessimistic town’ in the world, turning shrinkange, decay, and pessimism into the town's brand. Beyond the pessimism brand several other initiatives, which are either created by engaged local residents or are municipality-led, are revitalizing and enhancing the liveability of Puolanka. By applying ethnographic research methods, we aim to show how initiatives improve the well-being and contribute to the place perception of residents. Such initiatives create jobs, albeit usually in small numbers, improve the physical space, stabilize the sense of community and can bring hope to a place characterized by increasing abandonment, decay, and the loss of local services.

Original languageEnglish
JournalEuropean Planning Studies
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 11 Oct 2022
MoEC publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed


  • Shrinking towns
  • Northern Finland
  • Liveability
  • Bottom-up initiatives
  • Anthropology
  • liveability
  • remoteness
  • agency
  • shrinking towns
  • Local initiatives
  • northern Finland
  • rural regions

Field of science

  • Social and Culture Antropology


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